Monday, March 27, 2017

Warning about phone calls from the "IRS"

I've been getting a couple calls where a recorded voice says that the IRS has a warrant for my arrest and I need to talk to them to settle up my back taxes.  If you get one of these, HANG UP.  The IRS does not work this way - if they want to communicate with you, they send you a letter via snail mail.

These are like the Nigerian Prince, only via telephone (almost certainly Voice over IP, or VOIP, which lets them call from pretty much anywhere in the world toll free).  Just hang up if you get one of these nuisance calls.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Obamacare, Trumpcare, and Breadlines in Venezuela

I have given up, for the most part. I think that WesternCiv has reached the event horizon and there is no recovery. I think it happened somewhere in the last 30 years, as we allowed the debt to grow, failed to address the external threats, and used the education system to raise a generation of socialists. So mostly I ignore the news. But two related news stories have rousted me today and I will grab the spinning axle.

First, let's speak of Venezuela. An ever increasingly communist government reacted to bread lines this week by blaming the bakers. They took over some bakeries, accused the bakers of trying to make a profit, hoarding flour and making brownies. Not kidding.

 This is a hopeless effort. Large economic decisions have lead finally and inevitably to a flour shortage. The breadlines are the direct result of another country trying communism, whatever they are calling it. It has failed again and people will suffer as a result. The Venezuelan government's response is to double down.
"We're going to distribute bread at a much cheaper price and in larger quantities than before," said Jose Enrique Solorzano, who heads the socialist committee that assumed control of Mansion's. "It's no longer going to be about the exploited and exploiter, no more boss and chief. We're all going to become productive, living and producing in equality."
I bring this up to juxtapose it with this post on The Smallest Minority where the question, "Why are guns a right in the US, meanwhile education and healthcare are not?", is explored. First, and most obviously, guns and education/healthcare are not being considered the same way. The right to keep and bear arms does not come with an assumption that the government is going to pay for it.

Although it's not currently in the Constitution, and amending the Constitution has a clear process that has been accomplished a number of times, I could be convinced that adding a couple of Amendments that state that "healthcare and education are rights that shall not be infringed" would be harmless. Fine, I'm with you. Now arms, education, and healthcare would all be given the same protection. They could not be denied to anyone who could afford to pay for them.

The evil in Obamacare is the idea that healthcare is a right that must be provided and paid for, taxing everyone to provide the goods and services involved. Trumpcare was going to do some variant, tweaking the model, but not addressing the underlying wrong. Like Medicare and Medicaid, this is a model destined to fail. It won't fail all at once, but it will fail.

The communist model for healthcare will result in everyone having a right to healthcare and no one getting any of it. There will be black market health care for those who can afford it, a lovely parallel system for the politically well connected, and a crumbling system of overworked, over-regulated providers working to give some care to all the rest of us.

To tie this together, think of healthcare provided with the exact same mindset as bread in Venezuela today. Take a failed premise, force the system to use it, and then blame everyone and everything else for the failure. Blame the fat-cat doctors, the hospital administrators, Big Pharma, etc. Point fingers as wait times for services and procedures go up, blame the profits of the insurance companies and finally do what has been planned for decades. Establish the single payer system that Obamacare was designed to push us to. Even if we do some sort of Trumpcare along the way, that's where we're headed.

Just like the nationalization of the Venezuelan bakeries, nationalization of the U.S. health care system is coming. It's the the same thinking and it will have the same outcome. I don't expect to change this. I don't Trump or any other President could change the direction this takes us. We don't have the data on a national healthcare system yet, so I'll use Medicare as an example. Once we nationalize healthcare, I expect the same sort of growth in cost over time.

This, just in Medicare, is unsustainable. Make it an national healthcare system and we will consume the economy. Once we get done blaming the folks I mentioned and creating the single payer system, the government will be unable to manage the hospitals, doctors, pharmacy companies, because central control and planning won't work any better in the U.S. than it is working today in Venezuela or than it did in farm planning in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. You can like it or hate it, but it will fail. Update: Bayou Renaissance Man provides some of the math

And to ask my final two questions. Is a system that promises bread to everyone and fails more moral than the capitalist system that provides a surplus of bread that must be paid for? Is a system that claims that health care is a right and destroys the healthcare system trying to provide it to everyone more moral than a capitalist system that provides healthcare related goods and services for those who can pay?

Maurice Ravel - Une Barque sur L'Ocean

Today is the birthday of Nathaniel Bowditch, born this day in1773.  Bowditch is considered the founder of modern maritime navigation.  A mathematical prodigy, he began work correcting the calculation tables in other navigation books, finally deciding to write his own.  What made his different was his determination to "put down nothing in the book that I cannot teach the crew."  The resulting American Practical Navigator is still in common use today, and is carried aboard every U.S. Navy ship.

In honor of Mr. Bowditch and his gift to the seafaring world, here is a musical sketch of a ship sailing the ocean currents by Maurice Ravel.


While Borepatch was out riding, I was doing home repairs. The house was built in 1946. It was rental property when I bought it in 1986. It's a forever project.

In 2000, I tore out the kitchen to the studs. New cabinets, wiring, sheetrock, appliances, countertops, floor, sink, and windows. We washed dishes in the bathtub, the refrigerator stood in the corner of the living room, and we cooked on a camp stove while this took place. It took weeks months.

The faucet assembly I installed in the new sink in 2000 had developed a drip over that few months. There was a position you could set the handle in that wouldn't drip, but it was getting worse. Moen makes faucets here in the USA. One of their plants is with 50 miles. So Moen it is and I run out to the big blue store and get one.

Got out all the right tools. Removal is easy, if anything done by a 60 year old laying on his back under the sink is easy. Installation is even easier. Maybe 40 minutes, start to finish.

It is at this point that an accumulation of events and decisions starting in 1946 finally coalesced. Here they are, in order, as best as I can surmise.

1. Window installed at a certain height on the back wall of the house.(1946)
2. Sink and associated plumbing installed under window.(1946)
3.  New cabinets, with a 38" countertop, installed. (2000)
4. Replacement window installed. (2000)
5. At her request, a 6" wide windowsill to put things on, installed over the sink. (2000)
6. New sink and fixtures installed in countertop, directly under windowsill. (2000)
7. Replacement faucet assembly, with a taller center and an arched handle installed. (2017)

And there you have it. Murphy. It was installed, but you could not turn on the water, except a little bit right in the middle. No full hot or full cold at all. The handle would not clear the windowsill.

It is to laugh. Which I did. I liked the new faucet. I did not want to remove it, return it, and buy a different one. I did not even consider this possibility when I selected it so on some level this is my own fault and responsibility.

Add an hour going up and down to the basement, some cutting, sanding, and painting, and then putting even more tools away and behold, my solution to a problem 70 years in the making.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Out riding

Up to Lancaster PA with the local HOG chapter. So far I'm keeping to my resolution to ride in each month this year. Photo taken by the Queen Of The World.

A Sea of Open Sky - A Brigid Post

An aircraft engine has as many variances of sound as a human.  There are satisfied hums, deep throated snarls, and the incessant whine of someone who is never satisfied no matter what you do for them.  Then, there is that sound, in and of itself, the sound of an aircraft engine over the ocean at night, when there is not enough fuel to turn back, only to go forward to a far away shore

The sea is a broad expanse that neither eye nor voice can span, and when it's calm it lulls you into a false sense of comfort as the engines hum and you gaze out the window with clear, unconscious eye. You are not pondering thoughts that come to you poignant and silent, the order of your conscious, the conduct of life if there really is a proper way to die.  You are not thinking of the operational capacities of a Vickers Pump or your own limitations.  No, you are thinking about the really cold beer you will have at the end of a day, and the laughter of companionship.  That is when you hear it, or think you hear it. That sound.
"Oh, that's not right" you think and then you hear it again, that asthmatic thump.  As you check EPR's and pressures and temperatures, somewhere in your head are the words:  "An engine driven, two element (centrifugal and gear) fuel pump supplies high pressure fuel to the engine. Loss of the gear element of the fuel pump will result in flameout."  You feel no fear, only annoyance, at the callous outcry of machinery and cold water that have caught you unawares, making you give up your daydream of cold beer and a warm bed  and confirming unreasonably, your fondness for narrow escapes.

Then it is gone, if it ever occurred at all except in your mind, the engine only emitting a steady, slow hum, like somnolent bees.  But your senses are back on red alert, that seeming malfunction that the mind hears on such over water trips, ministering to a boldness as forged as its own pretense of  fear. What is it to fly such a vast distance, one youngster asked me once? I replied, " it seems like 999 minutes of boredom and 1 minute of stark terror."
You either loved or hated your ship.  Aircraft, in general, are easy to fall in love with, with their ever present potency and  mysterious uncertainty.  Even as a child I dreamed of them, watching  them fly overhead, the contrails a heroic thread, the sun glinting on their promise. But they varied among even the same make and model, twins of different mothers.

Then there were the mornings where you went out to the flight line and there, on the tarmac, perched four large birds, three of them bright, shining and gleaming, perfect in form.  And the fourth, older than the dirt upon it,  with a stain of fluid on the ground underneath, the Scarlet Letter of hydraulic fluid.  The smiling crew chief  is happy to introduce you to them like an old Puritan father to a prospective bridegroom "here are my four daughters, Faith, Hope Charity and Pestilence", and you know which one you are going to end up with. Even if you got a good aircraft,  there would be days they could be as unruly as a mule, refusing to start, to move, and occasionally willing to give you a swift kick.  It is sometimes the smallest of things that can be your undoing.
But it's not just your own craft turning on you that you have to be concerned about on such trips.  Weather over the ocean is its own continent.  Perhaps not so much now, but 20 years ago, when I was a pup with four strips on my delicate shoulders that were not yet tarnished, weather planning for ocean crossing was less meteorology and more alchemy. I think about many long flights, our course drawn out with paper, not electronic blips of a satellite fix, a small x marking a fuel stop, a small cross marking our destination, a line marking the path. where we as Pilgrims, sought out that holy place, that grail of a full night's sleep.

I remember one flight that would have a stop on an island, a piece of land in the middle of an ocean, just big enough for a tourist's fat wallet and the occasional aircraft.  There was great oceanic storm brewing off in a distance, but it was to have no impact on our flight path, according to all of the aviation weather experts.  Still, as the craft pitched ponderously in air that was to have been still, even if the sky was clear, there was this nagging tickle at the back of my neck, that said "should have stayed in bed".  As we passed the calculated point of go on or retreat back to base,  the controllers telling us it looked good ahead, the clouds began to build and form, not so huddled we couldn't easily pick our way through them with the right tilt of an antenna, but building nonetheless, and rapidly.
As we got within a hundred miles of our destination, they built into full blown thunderstorms, releasing their energy in broken bursts that boomed like the barrage of heavy artillery firing at a very small enemy. The air was full of flying water, heavy sheets of rain that extended well past the individual cells, landmines with up and downdrafts I was trying to avoid.  It was supposed to be clear and sunny, no alternate landing site required, our biggest concern being what food we could get to eat before taking off again.

My copilot was very young and fairly inexperienced, not with the craft, as he was fully trained, but to this whole environment.  I could sense him getting pretty nervous.  I just smiled and said "we're almost there". There is no quitting in this sort of thing, and often there is no going back. You endure because you have a conviction in the truth of what you are doing, duty being not a thing, but a name, that establishes the order, the mortality of conduct and the outcome.

"Skipper?", a gentle voice from my right.

We checked the weather for our landing destination. The wind was very heavy but not beyond the limits of my skill or the aircraft's proven handling, but it was going to be Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.  What concerned me more was the torrential rain, barely enough ceiling and visibility to land, "barely" being optimistic but enough to make the  Precision Instrument approach and hopefully see the required lighting.  Otherwise, we'll declare an emergency, get a good signal on the approach, keep the needles centered and the donut amber and fly it to the ground. There were no other options when the nearest bit of land is hours past the fuel you have.
My copilot, on hearing the terminal weather, gently stammered a "what are we going to do?"

We were either going to succeed or we were going to be scorched by a flame that fate will flick at us without pity, with no time to utter any last words of faith or regret.  But I wasn't going to tell him that.

I gave him  my sweetest  smile and said simply -

 "We're going to land this mother*(#*er".

And we did, dropping our nose and descending down into that somber wall of rain and grey that seemed the very stronghold of that small place we were trying to breach, picking up the runway there through the rain at the right moment, the wind pounding us like surf. When we landed,  my copilot wanted to kiss the ground. I simply gave my aircraft a grateful pat on the nose, like the trusty stead it was, as it stood there, trembling in the wind as if it had just run a great race.

I'd not ever quite seen weather change so violently and rapidly outside of the forecast. Apparently Mr. "Giant Rotation of Water and Air" took a sharp bend in the hours we were aloft, pushing some weather up our way.  Not yet  hurricane strength by any means, just the nasty stuff you generally try and avoid.

After that, I think I was owed my 999 minutes of boredom and just wanted to go perch on a bar stool somewhere dry.
There have been many other storms, ones with premeditated gales of wind that seemed to have a fierce purpose all of their own, a furious attentiveness in the howl and rush of air that  it seemed to personally seek us out. But that did not summon in me a feeling of fear but rather, a deep sense of  awe in the power of our planet, though I might have said a quick prayer to the Patron Saint of landing gear (that's good to minus 2 g's extended),  prior to touchdown.

There were days we left the ramp, to launch into that deep sea that is the sky, no one to see us off,  as in days of old, where the ships left port while some quiet mothers and anxious maidens cried waved lace handkerchiefs and dreamed undrowned dreams. We were on the move so much, most of us had no time for such ties, our connections were brief sparks from cold stone, unexpected and as short lived. For now, at least, we just had our crew and crew chief that, who, while immensely competent, normally ate tacks for breakfast and was typically as excited to see us arrive or leave a house cat.

There were days of fierce delights, of sun that bounced off the nose, like some  weaponized ray of an alien craft, its power deflected by mere sheet metal, and more relays that anyone knew (seriously, when they built this craft, SOMEONE was having a sale on relays). There were nights we hung motionless in the air, with no sense of motion, ourselves a futuristic craft that flew beyond a brace of suns into the darkness, awaiting the kiss of imminent adventures.
It was also long work and hard work.  It was machinery that would break in a place of isolation and natives that had long pointy guns, requiring kitchen sink repairs with a manual you wished you had brought with you, which was like trying to explain the order of the universe with one brief, hazy glimpse of truth.  It was learning to trust equally, providence and the immutable laws of physics.  But its reward was great.

I understood the conjured  diplomacy of relationship between earth and sky, alive to its looming dangers and measured mercies.  I bore the power of the atmosphere and the criticism of men, the levy of duty and common severity of the tasks that build a backbone and enables you to break bread.  It's a life that will check the edge of your temper and the point of your command; that will affirm the character of your fight  and the hidden  truth of your fears. It's a life that beguiles as it disenchants, a life that  frees you even as you willingly let it enslave you.

Our world was long drawn out days, a future that disappeared moment by moment into history, days that fell  forever into the arms of the sea or drifted down upon deserts or  mountains where they caught and hung on the landscape like clouds. Our world was one aircraft, that fired up with a belch of smoke, then hung there, lonely under that smoke, til we were released with a quick salute.
It was an orderly world that revolved around a specific precise and measured way of doing something, while working in an environment that cared little about either prevision or order.  You were trained in every possible outcome, only to find that circumstance that wasn't like you were trained for.  Then you discover the most unyielding of haunts of mans own nature, wrapped up in a question like rolled steel, more chilling than your brief mortality.  And that is the distrust of the absolute power consecrated in an established standard of conduct. You can go off the path, right?, boldly go where no man has gone before.  It works out in the movies, doesn't it? Then, in that instant between heroism and insanity,  you realize what you are made of, for the only thing that will save you,  is that trust, and you take off your cowboy hat,  get out that checklist and do what is expected of you.

I don't miss it, and I do, there on those nights, when the golden blaze of sunset bites into the rim of the earth and the night casts its shadow upon me.  On such nights  I see the form of an aircraft overhead, not the modern airliner,  but a craft that's seen some battles, one with ancient radios, and tired rigging, visible there in the last remnant of light.  I don't see them often, but when I do, I simply stand, there in that slant of light, the form moving away to the heart of a sky that is its own vast enigma. Only the moon now watches me, hanging in the sky like a slender shaving of pale wood. I watch that aircraft until it's only a flash of a strobe, one that captures all that last bit of light in the sky, disappearing  into the darkness, gone, even as it's forever contained in the center of it.

The sky is an incomplete story and for that I am grateful.
 - Brigid

Friday, March 24, 2017

Kim !

Kim Du Toit has returned to blogging. He's been removed from Sadly Missed and restored to the active roll. This is a Very Good Thing and I hope he's doing well.

The Religion of Global Warming

From The Atlantic, an article on cognitive dissonance that explains how people can hold a belief in the face of facts and logic that clearly points to a different conclusion. The article starts with cults, but touches on religion, politics, political parties, selective bias and even mentions global warming.
“A man with a conviction is a hard man to change,” Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schacter wrote in When Prophecy Fails, their 1957 book about this study. “Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point … Suppose that he is presented with evidence, unequivocal and undeniable evidence, that his belief is wrong: what will happen? The individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than ever before...”
I was reminded of the history of stomach ulcer research and the difficulty that discoverers of H. Pylori had in convincing the medical establishment that ulcers were caused by a bacteria, not stress, stomach acid, or spicy food. The widely held belief that no bacteria could survive in the stomach and that there was no bacterial factor involved in this disease persisted for years in spite of the unambiguous results of the studies.

Believing (about anything) that "the science is settled" is a spectacularly good way to put on the blinders.

World War II B-17 pilot goes up in one again

"I remember now why I'm hard of hearing," he said. "A thousand hours of those engine grinding in my ears probably didn't help."

20 years old and in command of 12 bombers and 120 crew.  I expect he was harder to "trigger" than today's 20 year olds.

Hat tip: Rick, via email.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Filed Under: You Knew I was Rattlesnake When You Picked Me Up.

From, a chart to help understand the news as the media grapples with the events in Britain today.


Carbon Dioxide levels hit "Point of no return"

Rick emails to point out the latest climate change news:
Levels rose 3 ppm to 405.1 ppm in 2016, putting CO2 at its highest levels in over 10,000 years. This increase matched the record rise recorded in 2015, when CO2 levels officially passed 400 ppm, which climate scientists call the “point of no return.” After this mark, they claim, climate change is irreversible.
His question is whether since this is irreversible, the Usual Suspects will now shut up about it.  Confidence is not high on that.  The other question is whether they read Borepatch.  Sadly, confidence is not high on that, either.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Single Malt Scotch Paring - A Surprise from Brigid

Wine and food tastings have been around for a long time. One thing though, wine,a typical ladies favorite, is not my drink of choice. I really like a good beer and I'll have a sip of wine with a meal, a red, Merlot perhaps, but honestly I'd just rather just skip the flirtation and cut right to the chase.

The after dinner Scotch whisky. 

Wine is someone showing up with flowers at the door.  A good scotch is tumbling under a blanket in front of the fire and "the dog just stole my socks!"

Wine is  often paired with cheese.  Scotch and cheese? Uh. . . no thanks.

But chocolate?

Scotch and chocolate pairings are not an invention of the Range but it's not something I'd tried, until my best gal friend came back from the West Coast with some of the most incredible artisan chocolate,  TCHO - New American Chocolate and rumors of such late night hook ups.
 "bartender -the Titanic saw less ice, make it neat please"

I have admitted I am new to Scotch, only trying it well into adulthood.  At first I was a typical "I don't have a clue what I'm sipping or what I'm tasting" but with another novice pilot friend, we branched out in learning the various nuances of a dram.
Wilbur  - I detect an undertone of saddle leather
Ed - Perhaps, and a hint of straw.

Soon, I was hooked on the wonderful world of good Scotch. Pair that with the finest chocolate?  I'm game.
When you really don't need that second gun safe.

Not all pairings will work and single malts are definitely the way to go as they have very particular flavor profiles, as do single origin chocolates (chocolate that’s grown in a particular place for specific flavor qualities.) They can be herbal, grassy, fruity or smoky.

Adding to the confusion, whisky has not only  many different personalities, a single dram can have many distinct notes.  You start with the nose, then progress to the palate, and finally, the finish.  Chocolate too, is similar.  There's the snap as you break it, the subtle aroma under the nose and then the rich complexities of taste, fully released from the cacao butter as it melts, at perfect mouth temperature.
As a general rule, whisky opens up the taste of the chocolate well, and chocolate mitigates a bit of the alcohol burn.  But some chocolate is so intense it could clobber the subtleties of some whisky, some is so bland, the whisky will not let it get a word in edgewise. To truly work well, the aroma and flavor of both the Scotch and the chocolate need to complement one another, with the regional characteristics of both playing a key roll in the effectiveness of the pairing.

To truly get a combination you love, you need to learn your own palate, what you like and then experiment.  If you're just used to wine tastings, be prepared for a wonderful surprise.  Scotch has so much more of a greater mouth feel than wine, so get ready to grab your bits of fine chocolate and exploit the taste to its fullest potential.

Until then - I'll leave you with a few of my own findings  - a quick Brigid primer on Whisky and Chocolate Pairings.

Cu Dhub (bastard offspring of Loch Du and WD40) and Hersheys (like eating a cocoa Yankee candle)

Edradour 10yo (burn a gummi bear with an acetylene torch) and Coconut M and M's (choco/sunblock)

Tullibardine 10yo (endorsed by soccer hooligans everywhere) and Nestle's Crunch (asphalt and gravel)

Tamnavulin 10yo (rated "OK" by drunken Australian Infantrymen) and Venchi Cuor di Cacao 85% (ever stick your tongue on a frozen metal girder?)

Cragganmore 12yo (gentlemen prefer blands) and Pralus Venezuela 75% (the dark roast deflowers any delicate flavorings this chocolate once had)

Must Try -

Bowmore 15 and Lindt A Touch of Sea Salt Dark Chocolate

Laphroaig 18
and Lindt Madagascar 65% Chocolate 

Ardbeg Uigeadail
and Picaro Salt and Nibs

Glengoyne 23 year
and L’Artisan du Chocolat: Madong 70%

Glenlivet Master Distillers Reserve
and TCHO Dark Chocolate with Subtle Nutty Notes. (Outstanding, coffee, a hint of nut, becoming sweeter as it melts)

You all enjoy.  I'll be in my bunk.

A layman's guide to the science of global warming

I haven't posted much on global warming for the last few years, feeling like I'd said most of that I had to say.  I mean, after a hundred or more posts, what's left to say?  What I haven't done is put together a high level overview for the non-scientist who wants to understand what's going on.  Sort of a nutshell guide, if you will.  And so, if you don't care about the current global warming brouhaha, you can skip this post.  If you want to understand what's behind the science, then read on.

The Starting Point: Climate over the last 1000 years

Probably the most famous image from this whole debate is the "Hockey Stick" graph, showing what was said to be the climate over the last 1000 years:

This was from a 1999 paper by Michael Mann (and co authors Raymond Bradley and Malcolm Hughes; this paper is often referred to as MBH99 after the author's initials and publication date).  When I first saw this, I was pretty skeptical.  It showed a stable climate (notice how flat the blue line is over most of the time?) until very recently followed by a sudden spike in temperature - a long flat line with a sudden right-hand hook looks like a hockey stick (hence the name of the graph).

We didn't hear much about an impending heat death of the globe until fairly recently.  Before the late 1990s, the current scientific consensus was that climate fluctuated, sometimes hotter and sometimes cooler.  The current climate was not seen as being particularly warm - certainly less warm that the Medieval period (called the "Medieval Warm Period", or MWP) or the Roman era (called the "Roman Climate Optimum").  This was all written up in the first Assessment Report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which periodically published the latest and best scientific understanding on the issue.  Page 202 of that report showed the scientific consensus of climate history over the last thousand years.

You can see the MWP of the left, the "Little Ice Age" where famine ruled Europe in the middle, and then a temperature recovery to the current era on the right.  No hockey stick to be seen anywhere.  Remember, this was the scientific establishment view in 1990.

As it turns out, there's plenty of history to support this establishment view, and which disputes the MBH99 hockey stick.  The Domesday Book was a tax survey compiled by William the Conquerer after he invaded England in 1066.  It detailed everything in his kingdom that was worth taxing, and so it was assembled with care.  It documented wine vineyards in the north of England, far to the north of where wine is produced today, implying that the climate was warmer in 1066 than it is in 2017.  There is excellent documentary history that the MWP was followed by a catastrophic cooling - the Little Ice Age: as todays's glaciers retreat, archaeologists have discovered the remains of alpine villages that were overrun by glaciers.  And recently, the Vatican announced changes to centuries-old prayers to stop the advance of the glaciers.

The important point here is that there is quite a lot of recorded history from the period that does not square with the climate reconstruction from the Hockey Stick paper.  As it turns out, the MBH99 paper has been conclusively debunked: the data sets used were inappropriate and the statistical algorithms were "novel" (the produced hockey stick shaped output even on completely random data; for example, if you ran the numbers from the telephone directory through the algorithm it would give you a hockey stick).

How do we know what the temperature was 1000 years ago?

The thermometer was invented in the early 1600s.  The oldest regularly maintained series of readings are from the Central England Temperature (CET) series that dates to 1659.  So how do we know what the temperature was before that?  Proxies.

A proxy is a measurement that isn't directly a temperature measurement but which maps to what we think the temperature was.  The most famous of these are tree ring widths: rings will be wider in warmer years when growth is faster, and narrower in cold years when growth is slower.  There are a lot of other types of proxies: rings showing growth in coral reefs, layers of sediment from ponds, and most interestingly, layers of ice deposited on glaciers.  Drilling into the glacier results in ice cores which have annual accretions - colder years will have thicker layers and warmer years will have thinner ones.

Proxies reflect temperature and some of these records go back a very, very long time.  The Greenland Ice Core Project (GRIP) ice cores date back thousands of years:

Current climate is on the far right.  Moving leftwards we see first the MWP, then a cool period, then the Roman Climate Optimum, and then a generally warmer climate for thousands of years.  There is corroborating archaeologic evidence to support this data: retreating glacier uncovers pre-viking tunic,  retreating glacier uncovers 4000 year old forest (german newspaper translations).

The Vostok ice cores from Antarctica go much further back, hundreds of thousands of years:
You can see the alteration between ice ages (populated by Woolley Mammoths and other cold weather fauna) and warm inter-glacial periods.  We are currently in one of those interglacials.  It's unclear what caused the ice ages, and what caused the warmer inter-glacials.  However, man-made carbon dioxide is not one of the plausible theories for the interglacials.

The Greenhouse Effect

OK, so we know that climate has been up and down for pretty much as long as we can piece together records.  Rather than history, what's going on right now?

We now need to shift from history to Chemistry. We've heard of the "Greenhouse Effect", where sunlight passes through the atmosphere to the ground, the energy is absorbed and re-emitted as heat, and the heat is trapped by the atmosphere. In more precise scientific terms, certain gases are transparent to visible light, but obaque (blocking) to heat (infrared) radiation.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2 is one of a set of greenhouse gases, including methane and water vapor. One justification for the Hockey Stick that proponents of AGW theory used was that the Industrial Revolution began to produce large amounts of CO2 around 1850, which is when we saw the spike in temperature. There are a couple problems with this:

1. Correlation does not imply causation. Just because something happens at the same time as something else, doesn't mean that it's caused by it. If we see a big increase in, say, the number of lemons imported from Mexico, and simultaneously see a big reduction in the number of traffic fatalities, we shouldn't jump to the conclusion that Mexican lemons reduce traffic deaths. This seems obvious, but is really at the heart of the proposed policy mitigations like Kyoto, Cap and Trade, and Copenhagen.

2. More importantly, CO2 is a very - even surprisingly - weak greenhouse gas. (chart from ICPP AR 1)
What this means is that as you put more CO2 into the atmosphere, it has less and less of a greenhouse effect. This isn't really surprising, because this sort of "exponential decay curve" is the norm in nature - things tend to rapidly achieve equilibrium because this "negative feedback" keeps things from running away out of control. Chemistry (actually spectroscopy) tells us that CO2 is not really opaque to infrared except at a very narrow frequency band, and therefore "leaks" heat back into outer space at the edges of the bands.

The scientific consensus is that doubling the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere results in warming of around 1°C.  We've gone from around 280 parts per million (ppm) atmospheric  CO2 to around 400 ppm an increase of about 50% over the last 100 years or so, so there should have been an increase of around half a degree.  So why do we hear all of this about how we are destroying the planet?  I mean, half a degree doesn't sound like much.

Shaky scientific grounds: "Positive Forcings"

Proponents of catastrophic warming know this, and have proposed a theory of "Positive feedback", where CO2's greenhouse power is multiplied, or "forced", sort of like Popeye after he opens a can of spinach. This forcing is reached after a particular CO2 concentration, and causes a "runaway greenhouse effect". There is a fatal problem with this: we simply don't see this much in nature.  In fact, the universe is stable because of negative feedback, where an increase in one thing results in a decrease in others.

There is, of course, a theoretical justification for positive feedback from the AGW proponents - the details are complex, and I don't particularly want to get into them. Instead, is there a way that we can test the theory? There is indeed. We have measurements of both temperature levels as well as CO concentrations for at least the 20th Century. How do they match?

Rather than lots of science and math and stuff, he looks at what the proponents of AGW say and he finds a lot to be desired:
5. The claimed “proof” of positive feedback is a model prediction of a hot spot in the tropics at mid troposphere levels. However all the experimental evidence from many, many measurements has failed to find any evidence of such a hot spot. In science, a clear prediction that is falsified experimentally means the underlying hypothesis on which the prediction is based is wrong.
8. If I adopt this 10:1 ratio by looking at the last 100 years worth of data I find 1910-1940 temperatures rising while CO2 was not. 1940 to 1975 temperatures falling while CO2 rising, 1975 to 1998 temperatures rising while CO2 rising and 1998 to 2009 temperatures falling while CO2 rising. Three quarters of the period shows no correlation or negative correlation with CO2 and only one quarter shows positive correlation. I do not understand how one can claim a hypothesis proven when ¾ of the data set disagrees with it. To me it is the clearest proof that the hypothesis is wrong.
What I would add is that we don't just get temperature proxy data from ice cores, we also get COlevels from gas bubbles that were trapped in each layer.  CO2 maps very neatly to temperature, so the question is why we didn't see positive forcing during, say, the Roman Climate Optimum?

This is the biggest problem that climate scientists have today, and is actually the center of the whole debate: are there positive forcings, if so how big are they, and how are they measured?  There's actually no consensus at all here among climate scientists.  You can get a good overview of this issue here.

Climate Models seem hopelessly broken
Prediction is hard, especially about the future.
- Yogi Bera
The history is decently clear from proxy evidence, so where do scientists think that the climate is going?  There are a bunch of computer models (enormous, complicated computer programs) that predict what climate will be like in the future.  A lot of the most dire predictions that you hear - that temperatures will rise 4 or 5 degrees, devastating the planet - come from these models.

The problem is that models are not climate - they are programs that contain a bunch of algorithms that produce a set of numbers.  Whether these algorithms are valid predictors is the real question.  As we all know, the proof of the pudding is in the eating of it.  So how accurate have the models been?

Not very:

The latest IPCC report is Assessment Report 5 (AR5) which includes 102 climate model predictions from CMIP-5.  All but a couple of the models run "hot", meaning that the predicted temperatures are higher than what is observed.  The blue and green data points are from measured temperatures from weather balloons and satellites, but we could as easily add in the surface temperature data set used in AR5 (the CRUTEM series) which would show the same divergence between measured temperature and predicted temperature.  You can get more details on models vs. measured temperature at this post.

Something seems very fishy in Climate Science

This is where we stand regarding the historical record, the theory, the chemistry, and the predictive models.  There is really quite a lot of evidence that climate science as currently practiced doesn't have as solid a grasp on the climate as they say.  Indeed, at each stage we see quite a lot of hard evidence that contradicts what the so called "consensus view" of science is.  If the theory were as strong as claimed, you'd expect to see the opposite - data everywhere confirming the theory.

For example, the highest temperature ever recorded in the United States was in 1913.  After a century of positive forcing and year after year reported as "the hottest year ever", we find that the hottest day on record was over a century ago.  Does this prove that the climate isn't warming?  Of course not.  However, if the science were as incontrovertible as we are told, you would expect a more recent record.

But let's look at what's going on in the "consensus climate establishment", because there are some very odd things that you see when you turn over some rocks.  We will talk about some of these now.

ClimateGate and "Hide the Decline"

The University of East Anglia (UK) hosts the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, one of the three most influential climate research organizations in the UK. The Hadley Centre is part of the UK Met (Meteorological) Office, the UK's national weather office. Hadley develops computer climate models and provides one of the most influential temperature data sets (CRUTEM3). In 2009, the Hadley Centre controversially refused a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request for the CRUTEM3 raw (uncorrected) data.

Phil Jones is the current director of the Hadley Centre.

In November 2009,  someone posted 61 MB of emails, computer program code, and climate data from Hadley servers to an FTP server on the Internet.  One of the most notorious of the emails in this release was from Dr. Jones, and contained the following:
I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps
 to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from
 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline.
Let's unpack this so you understand each piece.  "Mike" refers to Dr. Michael Mann (of Hockey Stick fame).  "Nature" refers to Nature Magazine, one of (perhaps the) most  prestigious scientific journals.  More specifically, it refers to an article that they published, written by Dr. Mann in which he had a temperature reconstruction.  There is a huge amount of dispute over what "trick" means - skeptics allege sleight of hand while Mann said it just referred to a mathematical technique.  So what was the trick?

Dr. Mann's data sets contained many different proxy series.  This is actually a good thing, because you want confirmation of results from different places and types of proxies (say, including ice cores, tree rings, and corals will probably be more reliable than just using tree rings).  Mann's "trick" (call it a mathematical technique if you want) was to remove all proxy data later than 1960 and replace it with measured temperature data.  The result was a hockey stick shaped temperature graph.  This is what Dr. Jones did in the paper referred to in his email.

The $100,000 question is: why go to the trouble to do this if you have proxy data from 1960 up to the present?  Why replace 50 years of perfectly good data?

Hide the decline.

This is a great, short video about ClimateGate and hide the decline by Dr. Richard Muller, head of climate science at the University of California at Berkeley.  He is a high profile climate scientist and he has quite pungent things to say about Dr. Jones and company.

There's more that I won't go into here (particularly the repeated modification of previously recorded temperature data with little or no justification) but this post is plenty long enough as it is and you have a solid grounding in the key points (with links to original sources so you can check my work).

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Green screen fail

Don't wear green on St. Paddy's Day if you're going to be in front of a green screen ...

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov - Scheherazade

Burton in Persian disguise as
"Mirza Abdullah the Bushri"
On this day in 1821, Sir Richard Francis Burton was born.  Explorer, author, and rogue, he pioneered expeditions to Darkest Africa years before Stanley searched for Livingston.  One of his most famous exploits was a pilgrimage to Mecca, which was then (and remains today) off limits to non Muslims.  The penalty for being discovered was death, and it was said that Burton was almost discovered, getting away by the skin of his teeth.

He was able to pass for Muslim because of his depth of knowledge of the Islamic cultures and languages.  This led to one of his great literary works, a translation of the Arabian Nights in 1885.  Three years later the great Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov composed this.

Even in the late nineteenth century - when areas labeled "Terra Incognito" were evaporating from the maps - the educated world was a small place.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

R.I.P Chuck Berry

Dead at 90.

"Bigger than the Beatles" is a cliche in rock and roll.  He was one of the few who were actually bigger than the Beatles - their cover of this song wasn't as good.

Thanks for all the music, Chuck.  The Choir Invisible is rocking tonight.

A Chapter From Small Town Roads - Brigid Guest Post

 The most effective way to destroy people is to deny 
and obliterate their own understanding of their history.
- George Orwell

He notices them in the city, old vacant houses, bearing the form of the formerly beautiful.  He  notices them in the country, old empty barns, the houses of which watched over them, also long abandoned. The barns drew him the most, some mystery there in their silent lofts, where among the beams and rough-hewn boards, life from venerable times was lived according to venerable ways, never to be seen again.

There are many reasons such places are abandoned, foreclosure, death, yet they remain vacant, remain fallow, someones dreams perhaps tied up in probate or simply discarded, no one wishing to assume the burden of that which will take some care to make whole. He only stops to look, then drives down the road to home, an older place but kept in meticulous repair, the house warm, the walls adorned with only a few photos of the past, framed copies of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

A young woman walks out to the curb, where renters moving out next door left a few bags of trash.  Laying next to them were two large pieces of cast iron cookware.  She takes a closer look, both were high-end brands, neither purchased cheaply.  Both looked unused but for the thick rust covering both.  The house empty and staying that way, she picks them up and takes them home to examine and clean. Once the rust is removed, the pans oiled and properly seasoned, they look as if new,  these pieces that should last a lifetime. Someone simply did not know how to care for what they had and casually discarded them.
Out at the rural airfield, a man who still wears his youth in his eyes, arrives for a local flight. He notices, off in the distance, tires flat, grass growing up into the wheel pants, there sits an old tailwheel airplane.  The paint hasn't seen a wash or polish in years, the once bright hues that flaunted their color against the sky like a cry of challenge, now laying mute upon the grass  The engine, which once fired up with life, growing louder and louder as the entire aircraft trembled like a racehorse waiting to run, lay quiet, but for the rustle of birds who have built a nest in the intake.  He wonders what it would cost to buy it, to get it flying again.

So many things that go unnoticed until they are gone.  Some lie barren, covered in days until they no longer shine, forgotten.  Other things, capture the eye of someone, be it a house, a piece of machinery, a person, an entire manner of living, which for that one individual, possesses a life all of its own.  It is that missing piece of our history, that forbidden apple whose taste could open up the pathway to heaven, or cast one from all that is accepted.  Yet, they can not resist, like the fruit of the Tree in the Garden of Good and Evil, such things being fraught with the possibility of the undiscovered.

A man sits alone in a house that still shows the remains of the recent past amongst the modern updates,the 70's retro hunters blaze of orange touching some things like flame, shag carpeting stamped flat there in the trails of silent children. It is quiet now, two children and two wives preceding him in death, his remaining child flying in as often as she can, calling every night before he goes to sleep.  The TV is off, the windows open, the curtains breathing in and out with the soft exhalation of evening.  It is a night for memories or passages, those moment within us, that by our history, our remembrances, release us from the shadows, our soul freed there in that  moment that makes certain silences more clear than any words that can be uttered.

In another home, that's seen a hundred years come and go, a young man in a blue button down shirt sits in a chair, surrounded by books and antiques. Each piece was carefully picked from the flotsam and jetsam of estate sales, carefully cleaned and placed in the room alone but for muscle and sweat.  The room  looks no different than if the time was a hundred years ago, but for a small flat screen TV, dusty in the corner.  The safe holds a small collection of rare and unique firearms, some dating back to the Civil War.

Some people are born out of their due place, fate casting them too soon or too late, but they only look ahead, even as they bear a yearning for a place they knew not.  On the shelf is a picture of a woman, not a young woman, except for the eyes, the blaze of her hair.  He looks at the photo, tracing the leather of the spine of his book, with hands that remember. 
A woman works in a basement, putting up boxes away from the moisture, water having crept in during recent storms.  In watching her work, you would think her a young girl.  Only in the harsh light from the window, do you know she is not. She look down at her hands and her forearms, the scar on her palm where she took a fall out of a tree, the rough edged dimple on her arm, where bone forced its way through, her form no match for someone that outweighed her by a hundred pounds, someone who felt that since he possessed something, it was his right to break it.

There's other scars you can't see, the small bite shaped mark of a biopsy, the small shiny serrations on belly flesh, proud marks of the skin's burden as it carries another to life.  Would she erase or airbrush them away if she could?  No, she's descended from immigrants and warriors; for her, life is simply a battle fought, the scars simply marking the skirmishes won.

She is moving some boxes and hanging bags, military uniforms and gear, worn by grandfathers and beyond, men who are now only dust and courage. There is a new box to add to these, for which she must make room. She opens the box, carefully packed up just a week ago to be shipped, the uniform items carefully shrouded and laid to rest within. She touches the items, and even in their stillness, comes a moment of real and profound intimacy with the one who once wore them, unexpected and lasting, as is often our glimpse of truth. They will be carefully packed again to protect them, and stored with those uniforms of generations past. She leaves space on the shelf for another future box, for there will be one more, and probably soon.

At the bottom of the package, carefully wrapped in bubble wrap, in a lone toy soldier, that had been unearthed in the garden one Spring, years after the battle for world dominion with two flame hair children and their troops had ceased. The touch of its small battered form brought back the scent of the earth in their back yard, the shade of the apple tree that sheltered them, the warmth of the sun, times when they could ask Mom and Dad most anything and they'd tell them the truth.
Was this little figurine simply a forgotten toy or was he buried in some forgotten childhood military honor?  She could not remember, but like anything long lost, he spoke to her, of why we remember things and why they are important.

With that remembrance, with the lessons of the past, we can live safer and smarter. We can make decisions based on what we learned the hard way, about the truth, about individuals, about intentions, those deceits and traps that lay like spider webs for the naive or the unwary.

So she continues to look, sometimes seeing the past in front of her, in pieces found years after they were laid there, the answers beneath her hands, under a mantle of dirt and time. She sees them sometimes late at night, out of the corner of her eye. Perhaps it's just fatigue, perhaps an awareness of more than these moments here, now but there at the edge of her vision, she senses those moving moments of lives that went before. People who valued freedom over power, truth over political correctness, people unafraid to ask "why" or "how". People just like her, full of fear and pride and arrogance, courage and love, the knowledge of suffering and foreshadowing of their own death, saying no to death, for generation after generation, knowing that can't stop it, but damned if they won't go out trying.
She sometimes look into unseeing eyes, wondering if at that moment of their passing, the questions were answered, or if perhaps more compassionately, they had forgotten the asking of them. But there is only scent and whispers, there in that cold landscape, speaking, murmuring across time, the questions they can no longer seek, but she can give voice to, with a simple but solemn, signature at the bottom of a page.

The items put away, she returns to a table of tools, a place to work and repair, form and craft, as she finds something soothing in fixing and finding answers in that which is broken, even as she restores its use.

The young man in the button down shirt picks up an old violin, worth more than all of his other possessions combined, even as appearance alone might label it, in unknowing eyes, as yard sale material.  The notes reach out to the depths of the dwelling, penetrating the darkness, laden with the awe and enigma that can be borne on the strings of remembering men. From the shadows, a woman smiles.
These people may all be strangers or they may be bound by blood, bond or friendship.  But they do share one thing; an understanding that life bears with it the remnants of the past.  They can call it baggage or call it wisdom. They can cover it, shed it, walk away from it, forget it ever happened and forget its lessons.  But as they destroy that history, they destroy themselves.

Better they can preserve it, for what it was, those moments, those things that made them what they are. They can treat it all as something shameful, or they can speak or write of it, in a tone that would be a shout of triumph were the words on a keyboard capable of speech.  They can live their lives, old before their time, for the burden of the past, or they can live sufficient, complete, desiring as the young do, not to be bound, but only to love, to query and scrutinize uncontested, left alone with their freedoms. 

It is the future.  It is the past.  An elderly man sits in a chair, surrounded by books and antiques.  The room has not changed in the last fifty years.  On the shelf is a picture of a flame haired woman. He slowly rises and walks towards it, joints stiff with pain, his form cleaving the space she once passed through.  He passes a shelf, a book bound with leather, an old revolver, a small vase, his glance touching what her eyes had lost. He picks up the photo and realizes that some things, even if not present, are never truly gone, fixed and held in the annealing ash that is our history.

As the night descends upon him unchecked, he stands and looks hard at everything.
L.B. Johnson (Brigid)

The Dead South - In Hell I'll Be In Good Company

Tam discovers that "new country" music isn't really country at all.  As a palate cleanser, here is a new group from Regina, Saskatchewan that has a new/old vibe that's pretty interesting.  Part of me wanted to punch them (get offa my lawn) but the music is pretty good.  And it's not Katie Perry with banjos.

In Hell I'll Be In Good Company
Dead Love couldn't go no further
Proud of and disgusted by her
Push shove, a little bruised and battered
Oh Lord I ain't coming home with you

My life's a bit more colder
Dead wife is what I told her
Brass knife sinks into my shoulder
Oh babe don't know what I'm gonna do

I see my red head, messed bed, tear shed, queen bee
My squeeze
The stage it smells, tells, hell's bells, miss-spells
Knocks me on my knees
It didn't hurt, flirt, blood squirt, stuffed shirt
Hang me on a tree
After I count down, three rounds, in hell I'll be in good company

Dead Love couldn't go no further
Proud of and disgusted by her
Push shove, a little bruised and battered
Oh Lord I ain't coming home with you

My life's a bit more colder
Dead wife is what I told her
Brass knife sinks into my shoulder
Oh babe don't know what I'm gonna do

I see my red head, messed bed, tear shed, queen bee
My squeeze
The stage it smells, tells, hell's bells, misspells
Knocks me on my knees
It didn't hurt, flirt, blood squirt, stuffed shirt
Hang me on a tree
After I count down, three rounds, in hell I'll be in good company

In hell I'll be in Good Company

Friday, March 17, 2017

St. Patrick's Day in Black and White

Just some photos taken with the $100 travel point and shoot on a side trip (using some leave days) on an overseas assignment I didn't post "live", due to the nature of the trip.


Music for St. Paddy's Day

No, not Finnegan's Wake.  Classy Irish music, of which there is a wealth.  Because I'm a lazy Blogger, I'm reposting from 2014.

What is the "Classical Music" of Ireland? It's not (Italian) Opera, or (German) symphonies, or even an (English) homage to Ralph Vaughan Williams (who studied under an Irish music professor) "countryside music" in the concert hall. Instead, we find something ancient

Image via Wik féin
We find something that easily might not have been.  Turlough O'Carolan (1670 – 25 March 1738) was the son of a blacksmith.  His father took a job for the MacDermot Roe family; Mrs. MacDermot Roe gave the young lad some basic schooling and saw in him a talent for poetry; when a few years later the 18 year old Turlough went blind after a bout of smallpox, she had him apprenticed to a harpist.  He soon was travelling the land, composing and singing.

This tradition was already ancient by the early 1700s.  it was undeniably Celtic, dating back through the Middle Ages, through the Dark Ages, through Roman times to a barbarous Gaul.  There bards travelled the lands playing for their supper on the harp.

This was O'Carolan's stock in trade.  He rapidly became the most famous singer in the Emerald Isle.  It is said that weddings and funerals were delayed until he was in the vicinity.  One of his most famous compositions - if you have spent any time at all listening to Irish music, you know this tune - was considered too "new fangled" by the other harpists of his day.  Fortunately, he didn't listen to their criticisms.

He married very late, at 50, and had many children.  But his first love was Brigid, daughter of the Schoolmaster at a school for the blind.  He always seemed to have carried a torch for her.

I originally wrote this post in the normal slot reserved for Classical Music.  Listen to this composition of his, and you see the bridge from the archaic Celts to Baroque harpsichord.

And keep in mind how this brilliance might never have blazed, had Mrs. MacDermot Roe not seen the talent in a blind Irish boy and set him upon a path trod by many equally unexpected geniuses, all the way back to St. Patrick.  It is truly said that we never know what our own path will be until we set our foot down upon it.

But his was an ancient path and he inherited much from those who trod it before him.  His "Farewell to Music" is said to be more in the traditional mold, and might have been appreciated at a feast held by Vercingetorix before the battle of Alesia.

This music is a bridge between modern and the ancient that disappears into the mists of legend.  Perhaps more importantly, it is a music that is still alive today, after a run of perhaps two and a half millenia.  You don't get more classical than that.

And it is a music where you still hear the yearning of a young blind man for his muse, Brigid.  That is a vitality that should not be exiled to a single day of celebration, even if it is for as illustrious a Saint as Patrick.  On this Feast Day, remember just how deep the roots of our civilization run.